The Passion in Quebec

Tuition peeve or spectacular revolt?


The mood on the streets of Montreal is electric, with growing numbers of activists flooding the streets nightly, banging pots and pans and vowing to protest until victorious. One jammer described the scene: “I come home from these protests euphoric. The first night I returned, I sat down on my couch and I burst into tears, as the act of resisting, loudly, with my neighbors, so joyfully, had released so much tension that I had been carrying around with me, fearing our government, fearing arrest, fearing for the future. I felt lighter… Every night is teargas and riot cops, but it is also joy, laughter, kindness, togetherness, and beautiful music. Our hearts are bursting…”

After over 100 days of protest, the question is whether the students will go beyond a simple demand for free education to begin struggling for a totally different future.

As one commentator put it: “While student issues are important, the Red Square has come to represent something much more than just disgruntled student demonstrators against tuition hikes. It has become another symbol – think the tent and the term Occupy – of a growing awareness that continuing the ‘business as usual’ model in Canada will not solve economic or social inequalities and we are, in fact, heading towards economic and social disaster.”

By pushing through an unpopular and authoritarian anti-protest law, Bill 78, which bans demonstrations near universities, and declares protests consisting of more than 50 people illegal (unless routes, times, and transportation methods have been cleared by police), authorities have handed students an opportunity to shift the uprising onto new terrain: the struggle over the future of democracy… the same struggle that animates the global Occupy insurrection.

Ultimately, youth have the passion and the daring to catalyze a spectacular global revolt. But to pull it off, they’ll need to keep going deeper, past Ivory Tower protests, and start rebelling against the black hole future that awaits us all.